Daily we get the reminders of just why Congress is held in such poor esteem. But that doesn't mean there are no good ideas there.
Here, a couple from two first-term members of the Northwest congressional delegation.
One grew out of need pointed up by a recent audit by the Oregon secretary of state's office, that even in this time of high unemployment many employers had some trouble finding the workers with skills and training suitable to positions opening - and not just low-wage positions, either. The audit suggested one basic problem is a communications gap between businesses and colleges, especially community colleges.
So, days later, on June 21, this: Democratic Representative Suzanne Bonamici proposed "H.R. 5975, the Workforce Infrastructure for Skilled Employees (WISE) Investment Act today to help identify local skills gaps and put Americans back to work. This is Bonamici’s first major piece of legislation since she assumed office in February. The WISE Investment Act establishes a pilot program that will provide grants to eligible workforce investment boards, community colleges, and other vocational institutions to hire local business liaisons. The liaisons will identify and analyze existing skills gaps and find ways to appropriately address them."
Could be highly useful helpful to businesses and employees both, unless it's derailed by the ideology that government can never do anything helpful.
The same day, Idaho Republican Representative Raul Laborador introduced a measure looking at another problem faced in the Northwest - most emphatically, in fact, in Oregon. The Secure Rural Schools program, providing federal funding for rural schools, is expiring and doesn't seem likely to be extended.
Labrador has proposed something to help fill the gap, the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act of 2012. It "would establish a program intended to generate economic activity for local governments and counties with National Forest System land through a management-focused approach. The legislation would create ‘community forest demonstration areas’ to allow the governor of a state to appoint local boards of trustees to assume management of selected federal forest acreage. The governor would then petition the Secretary of Agriculture to cede management of the demonstration acreage to the appointed board."
Not ownership, but management of specific tracts, and under fairly strict guidelines, and not a sweeping change, but pilot programs to explore whether the idea might work on a larger scale, or under what conditions. A useful idea, prospectively, if not derailed by concerns of making any changes at all in federal land management.
A couple of new tests for Congress, in other words.